We Get Our Grubby Paws On Shimano’s Brand New 1×12 XTR Groupset

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Shimano XTR M9100 may have only launched a week ago, but already the 12-speed groupset has been making waves amongst the global mountain bike media and on internet forums everywhere. Aside from taking the logical step to go 12-speed in order to keep up with SRAM’s popular Eagle 1×12 groupsets, Shimano has introduced an enormous 10-51t cassette, trumping SRAM’s 10-50t cassette and 500% gear range in the process.

shimano xtr 10-51t cassette 12-speed m9100
Shimano has literally one-upped SRAM with the new 10-51t XTR cassette. All photos by Amanda Wishart.

To make such a cassette possible, Shimano has also rolled out a new freehub standard called Micro Spline. This is basically a smaller version of a current Shimano freehub body, but with more serrated teeth for interlocking into a corresponding spline on the cassette. That big 51t allows the rider to generate some pretty serious torque on the rear wheel, so the splined freehub body is designed with that increased torque in mind. Unlike SRAM’s XD system though, Micro Spline is a licensed design, so other brands will have to pay Shimano before they can offer compatible freehubs. Aside from Shimano, DT Swiss is currently the only brand on board who will be producing compatible rear hubs. Shimano informs us that it’s in discussion with ‘other brands’ about licensing the design, but we’ll have to wait and see as to who else comes on board.

There are loads of sweet details to be found in the new M9100 line, so we took the opportunity during the 2018 Fort William World Cup to get our hands on two Shimano display bikes decked out with XTR 1×12 groupsets, in order to take you through some of the smaller features on this slick new component range.

The big theme running through Shimano’s new XTR M9100 groupset is choice for the rider. There are three different cassette options, 2-piston and 4-piston brake options, and the cranks can be setup with a single or double chainring via a simple direct-mount design. Though Shimano didn’t have any front derailleurs, shifters or double cranksets on display at Fort William, there were two separate bikes; one setup with a 1×12 Race groupset, and the other featuring a 1×12 Enduro groupset.

shimano bmc team elite soft shimano xtr 1x12
Shimano had this BMC Team Elite soft-tail dressed up in a 1×12 XTR Race groupset.
shimano xtr crankset m9100
The hollow cranks are bonded out of two halves to create a lightweight and hollow structure. The chainring is now direct-mount.
shimano xtr crankset m9100 bottom bracket
No more pinch-bolts on the XTR crankset. There’s one big tension bolt, and a separate preload collar for the BB bearings.
shimano xtr m9100 1x12 cassette
The 12-speed XTR cassette is available in two sizes. This is the smaller 10-45t, which should offer smooth shifting and less disruption to cadence.
shimano xtr m9100 1x12 scylence hub freehub micro spline
The new Scylence rear hub uses a ratchet mechanism to provide near-silent coasting.
shimano xtr m9100 1x12 disc brake
The XTR Race brakes feature a compact two-piston design. The smaller brake pads are the same shape as what you’ll find in a Shimano Ultegra/Dura-Ace disc brake.
shimano xtr m9100 1x12 brake lever i-spec
Likewise, the XTR Race levers are paired down to the bare minimum. There’s no Servo Wave roller cam, no Free Stroke, and the lever reach requires a hex key to adjust.
shimano xtr m9100 1x12 brake lever i-spec carbon
The dimpled carbon fibre lever blades are super trick.
shimano xtr m9100 1x12 brake lever i-spec
The lever body is braced against the handlebar to decrease flex when you’re tugging hard at the levers.
shimano xtr m9100 1x12 pedal spd
The pedals remain an SPD-compatible system, but these have been chiselled away to reduce weight too.
shimano xtr m9100 1x12 spd pedal
The XTR Race pedals are also thinner too.
shimano xtr m9100 cube stereo
To show off the XTR 1×12 Enduro groupset, Shimano decked out a Cube Stereo.
shimano xtr m9100 1x12 cassette
The 10-51t cassette uses alloy for the top three sprockets.
shimano xtr m9100 1x12 derailleur
Shifting is performed by an industrial-looking XTR derailleur. Inside is the Shadow Plus friction clutch, which is both adjustable and serviceable.
shimano xtr m9100 1x12 derailleur carbon
For the 10-51t cassette, Shimano offers a mid-cage option in the XTR mech. The 10-45t cassette can be used with the short-cage mech.
shimano xtr m9100 1x12 4-piston brake
Upping the power, these XTR brakes feature four-pistons.
shimano xtr m9100 1x12 brake 4-piston
The 4-pot brakes use the same pad shape as Saint/Zee calliper, but the sleek finned brake pads you see here are special XTR ones.
shimano xtr m9100 1x12 brake
Up at the brake lever, you get tool-free reach adjustment, Free Stroke, and the Servo Wave roller cam. The brake lever and shifter integrate via the new I-Spec EV mount.
shimano xtr m9100 1x12
The I-Spec EV bracket allows for a lot more lateral and angular adjustment of the shifter when mounted to the brake lever clamp.
shimano xtr m9100 1x12 shifter
We love the rubber traction pads used for the shifter paddles.
shimano xtr m9100 1x12 droper lever
With the new XTR groupset, Shimano also unveiled the MT800 dropper post lever. It’s designed to be used with most cable-operated dropper posts on the market, and it integrates via the I-Spec EV system.
shimano xtr m9100 1x12 spd pedal
Also new are the XTR Trail pedals. These get a flatter rear section and more machining on the alloy pedal body to better support and grip the rider’s shoe.
shimano xtr m9100 1x12 spd pedal
Notice the flatter rear platform. The front of the cage drops away though, to keep the stack height nice and low.
shimano xtr m9100 1x12 wil fort william
Wil gets the rundown from Shimano at the Fort William World Cup.

At this point in time, Shimano isn’t giving any firm arrival dates for the new XTR M9100 groupset. We’d expect to see it on complete bikes for the 2019 model year, so likely at the tail-end of summer or sometime in autumn. As for aftermarket groupsets? Typically Shimano serves OEM demand first and foremost, so it might be a while longer before consumers are able to purchase an entire drivetrain or groupset on its own.

Looking for more information on all the individual components? Then check out our detailed launch story on Shimano’s XTR M9100 groupset here.

Comments (3)

  1. Other parts look sweet, but the cranks?
    Why did they have to move to one large bolt, that will get stuck with corrosion over time, just like the ones from other manufacturers? The Hollowtech 2 crank system never causes stuck cranks or stuck crank bolt issues, the ones from any manufacturer with only one large bolt always do. Same with the plastic collar (as used by SRAM) is a pretty poor design.

    Even worse are the carbon cranks with single bolt installation – when that gets stuck, you can´t even use a hot air blower to get it loose, since it will also melt the composite crank…Fun times.

  2. I love the crank. So much nicer than the old ones with pinch bolts which were made of cheese.

    Swap them between bikes often enough and you eventually run into surgery with a drill bit.

    Chaps when /while testing it. Will you see if it works with a GX Eagle Cassette? Don’t see why it wont. Having sulked about that micro spline all week only being licensed to DT and about to get my paws on my boosted hunt wheels. My only solution would be to run the GX cassette and the rest new Shimano?

    Answers on post card. Ta

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